Avoiding national debt was one of George Washington’s greatest admonitions yet neither liberals nor conservatives have paid much attention to it. It would be well to reflect on his advice this President’s Day.
The trillion dollar Republican proposal will raise overall spending caps by about $300 billion over the next two years and will make interest on the debt the largest growing part of the federal budget. This expenditure of the people’s hard-earned taxes purchases nothing—simply vanishes.
This prompted Senator Rand Paul to say, “When the Democrats are in power, Republicans appear to be the conservative party. But when Republicans are in power, it seems there is no conservative party.” He added, “The dirty little secret is that, by and large, both parties don’t care about the debt.” We borrow “a million dollars every minute.”
On Sept. 19, 1796, just prior to leaving the presidency, President George Washington issued his famous Farewell Address. He warned posterity of possible pitfalls that could undermine or destroy liberty. His warnings may well be timelier 222 years later as we near his birthday February 22.
In strong terms he asked that we avoid debt. “As a very important source of strength and security cherish public credit… use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasion of expense… [Use the] time of peace, to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.” Unavoidable wars?
Today our national debt sits at over $20.5 trillion—the highest in our history. I once viewed a CNN clip, “How Much is a Trillion Dollars,” that showed a trillion dollars stacked atop one another the combined thickness going 68,000 miles into the sky—a third of the way to the moon. Applying this formula to our twenty-plus trillion dollars debt would take us to the moon and back, $6 trillion, to the moon and back a second time, 12 trillion, to the moon and back a third time, 18 trillion, and 2/3rds of the way to the moon a fourth time. Obviously today neither party has taken Washington’s advice. Presently the debt per taxpayer is over $170,370. We are spending our way into oblivion (See USDebtClock.org real time).
But Washington gave other unheeded advice as well. He pled that the nation kept religion and morality strong. He said: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports…. Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” The Founding Fathers never supported the notion of separation of religion and government—only the separation of an organization of religion from government. What would Washington say of the immorality that prevails today?
But the warning about foreign aid was especially good. He told us that gift giving in foreign affairs is a good way to be universally hated. He said it placed us “in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more.” Today there is hardly a nation in the world that does not have its hand out and when, after once giving, the amount is reduce or terminated, we are hated all the more for it.
He warned against the origin of “combinations and associations” whose intent was to suppress the desires of the majority in favor of the minority. He called them artificial power factions. What would he say of the influence of the Deep State in our government today or of the Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission or Bilderbergers? Would not this include Clinton’s foundation to pedal political influence for millions or Hillary’s rigging the DNC against Bernie Sanders or against Donald Trump with a fake dossier?
Such factions, he said, “May answer popular ends and become potent engines by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government….” The antidote for this, Washington explained, was “to resist with care the spirit of innovation” upon basic constitutional principles or premises no matter how flowery, appealing or “specious the pretext.”
Washington worried about posterity not holding their elected officials strictly to the limits imposed by the Constitution. He knew many would seek to undermine that document by twisting it to give power they could not acquire without the distortion. Sound familiar? He said: “But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.” Today much of what the federal government does is not even mentioned in the Constitution.
But patriots are not likely to be popular, as for instance Rand Paul. Washington explained, “Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.” One need not look far for the “tools and dupes” they seem to be everywhere and in both parties.
Tenth Amendment Center
The Tenth Amendment Center is a national think tank that works to preserve and protect the principles of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism. The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of state and individual sovereignty issues, focusing primarily on the decentralization of federal government power as required by the Constitution. For more information visit the Tenth Amendment Center Blog.